A haunting, unforgettable memoir for a new generation - the debut of a blazing new lyrical voice.
Domenica Ruta grew up in Danvers, Massachusetts, in a ramshackle, rundown, trash-filled house with her mother, a drug dealer and user who raised Domenica on a steady diet of Oxycontin. Growing up, Domenica knew she didn't fit in - she was far smarter and worse dressed than everyone else she knew, and she clearly had the most flamboyant mother of anyone in town - but she found solace in writing and reading. As she grew older, though, and as her mother's behavior grew increasingly outrageous and her home life increasingly untenable, Domenica fled Danvers only to become ensared by the demons of addiction.
A thoroughly textured and masterfully written book, layered with wildly colorful characters, a biting sense of humor, and penetrating, deeply sympathetic insights, With or Without You finally ends with Domenica's increasing awareness that she must leave the life she grew up with in order to survive.
"Survival required separation, and Ruta's account is a fairly dry, restrained chronicle of a wrenching embrace of health and sobriety." - Publishers Weekly
"A sharp portrayal of recovery from a lifetime of pitfalls and the love that held it all together." - Kirkus
"Freakishly brilliant, brilliantly freakish, this is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Domenica Ruta has done something every artist with a failed family must do: She has created herself." - Gary Shteyngart
"'Make it new,' Ezra Pound directed, and Domenica Ruta has. Difficult childhoods are plentiful; the talent to transform adversity into art is in short supply. Unflinching in its regard, forgiving in its humor, With or Without You is that rare thing, a story you think you know transformed into one you have to read to the end." - Kathryn Harrison
"In the world of memoir, Mary Karr's and Geoffrey Wolff's exceptional books burn and brighten, like actual stars among strings of tinsel. With or Without You is like that. I will read whatever Domenica Ruta writes." - Amy Bloom
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Rated of 5
Beth T. (Savannah, GA)
Not for Me
I'm always so excited to receive a First Impressions book and try very hard to be a responsible reviewer and read the entire book. I just couldn't do it with WITH OR WITHOUT YOU. Ms. Ruta most definitely has talent, and her way with words kept me going longer than I would have -- but in the end, I just couldn't find myself caring. The story jumped around and was too disjointed to keep me absorbed. I'm happy to see that many people DID like this book, and wish the author well as she continues her writing career.
Rated of 5
Penny N. (Saginaw, MI)
Abuse is painful
This memoir burns everything you have, from the body to the soul. The book is well written and perhaps just saves the author's life. Being born puts a small child in the wrong lane of life and a having a dysfunctional family overloads her mind and body. This all stems from family drug use, poverty and mistreatment carried forward from past generations. Nikki as the writer/subject is called, has a survivor mentality but not always. There is humor in the book as well as pain. Some pages you have to force yourself to read.
I put the book down several times and it always drew me back. I hope the world is alright for Nikki...
Rated of 5
Kat F. (Palatine, IL)
Like looking at a bad accident
This was not the book to read over the holidays. While the writing was excellent, the story itself was horrific, kind of like driving past a bloody accident scene. You know you should look away and keep going, but something compels you to slow down and gawk.
With all the violence against children that we can't control these days, to read about a mother that deliberately abused her daughter, both mentally and physically was extremely depressing and enraging. To deliberately put your child in harms way, repeatedly, reserves you a special place in hell in my mind.
Though Kathi, the mother, made me sick, I still had hope the daughter could overcome. I couldn't read this book for any length of time; I had to put it down and calm down. In order to objectively review the book, I had to take time to digest it and think about it when I was finished.
I guess that makes it a good book, but not a nice story.
Would I recommend it to anyone? Probably not as it was much too dark and depressing for me.
Rated of 5
Janice C. (Hayward, CA)
With Or Without You
This is an excellent memoir. Hard to read knowing how many young women have lived through such an ordeal. Domenica Ruta gives them hope that with a lot of perseverance you can overcome a difficult childhood. I am looking forward to reading my next Domenica Ruta book.
Rated of 5
Trezeline B. (Columbia, MD)
A Story of Strength and Courage
This is a memoir. A very interesting story of a young girl who grew up without guidance and protection. In spite of this, the young lady survives and manages to go to college and learn how to live. This was very inspirational.
Rated of 5
Kristina K. (Glendale, CA)
With or Without You
The description on the back of the book hales it as "a darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit '90s childhood." This description doesn't do this memoir justice. In beautifully fluid and poetic prose, Domenica Ruta presents her life's story much like she describes her experience of sobriety, where "memories return slowly and in the wrong order." And it's impossible not to feel the raw pain sandwiched between her wry or lyric observations. Not since Dorothy Allison's autobiographical novel "Bastard Out of Carolina" or Jeannette Wall's "The Glass Castle" have I read a memoir this powerful. Depicting complicated, dysfunctional family relationships plagued with abuse and addiction, Ruta also presents the rare, glimmering moments of kindness that, as those of us who have survived similar families know, keep the darkness from swallowing us whole.
Domenica Ruta was born and raised in Danvers, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. She was a finalist for the Keene Prize for Literature and has been awarded residencies at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, Jentel, and Hedgebrook.
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